Released inmates not being watched

DOC: 1 in 3 inmates released returns within 3 years

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Nearly 65 percent of Florida's prisoners are coming back into society without supervision. A study from Pew Charitable Trusts suggests that with no one watching, former inmates are more likely to become criminals again.

The study says that unsupervised inmate releases are up more than 100 percent nationwide since 1990. The state's Department of Corrections says about one out of every three inmates released returns to jail within three years.

"Parole was eliminated, post-release supervision scaled back," said Mark Schlakman, a human rights advocate.

Schlakman runs Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. He said it only makes sense that offenders who are thrown back into society wind up back behind bars.

"If there isn't at least some level of transitional support or oversight, it is less likely that the person re-entering society would have a successful re-entry into society," Schlakman said.

The study argues that "smart justice" options, like halfway houses, could be better for the end of a prison sentence rather than just letting prisoners walk away on their own.

When an ex-offender ends up back in prison -- something known as recidivism -- the money it takes to keep them locked up adds up. Robert Weissert, with Florida TaxWatch Center for Smart Justice, said repeating criminals hurt the taxpayer.

"We have to re-arrest them, re-try them and re-sentence them to prison," Weissert said. "(There are) lots of public dollars in that, but more importantly, there was a crime that was committed, there is now a victim in Florida."

Florida prisoners are required to serve 85 percent of their sentences. The legislature passed a bill this past session helping inmates get ID cards upon release, hoping to ease their transition back to society.

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